Amazon's Alexa will soon have opt-in alerts

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon is adding an opt-in notification feature to its Alexa voice-activated digital assistant that will provide answers to questions as soon as necessary information is made available, according to a blog post by the company. That differs from real-time responses to active queries.
  • The notification feature will be introduced in the next few weeks as part of the Alexa skills on Amazon's website. AccuWeather, Just Eat, Life360 and The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will have the notifications enabled when the service is officially launched. Software and hardware developer kits that can add the notification skill will also be available. 
  • Alexa will signal a notification with a chime and a green light on the LED ring atop the Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show devices. Users can ask, “Alexa, what did I miss?” or “Alexa, what are my notifications?” to hear the incoming information. It will also feature a ‘do not disturb’ mode.

Dive Insight:

Notifications are an important addition for making the Alexa ecosystem attractive and useful for marketers as they provide a way to drive ongoing engagement and build relationships. 

Anyone with a web browser or a smartphone knows that pop-ups, alerts and notifications can become a nuisance if they’re not managed correctly. By making notifications an opt-in feature of an Alexa skill, Amazon is at least recognizing that its customers want to prevent alert overload. The Washington Post skill will provide breaking news, AccuWeather will read forecasts and JustEat will offer updates on food orders — in other words, the notifications can add up quickly.

This feature arrives as Google reaches the one-year anniversary of its announcement of Google Home, its voice-enabled assistant device that was poised to be a smarter Alexa. The device didn’t live up to the hype by the time it arrived in November for the holiday shopping season. Meanwhile, Alexa's popularity leapt forward with the addition of limited voice calling to Echo speakers, a camera to one version of the device to help make fashion suggestions and the release of the Echo Show, which has a video screen for making video calls and watching video recipes, as USAToday points out.

The smart home digital assistant market may get even more crowded if Apple joins Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Samsung by putting its Siri voice assistant into a speaker. Analysts speculate that the Siri speaker may be announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference next month. Apple waded into audio hardware market with the $3 billion acquisition of the Beats headphone and music streaming service in 2014. Giving audio speakers a Siri-inspired brain may be the next logical step.

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